A hospital is threatening older people with eviction if they do not leave their hospital beds within a week. The Royal Bournemouth Hospital said that 70 elderly “bed blockers” were medically fit to leave but did not want to leave.
According to Katie Whiteside, Clinical Manager at the hospital, families are asking for relatives to stay in hospital while they sort out care arrangements: “At the moment we have relatives coming back telling us they don’t like the decor of care homes, or they don’t like the member of staff who met them at the door. They know that while the patients are here, they are being fed, watered and looked after”.
Senior doctors at the hospital said relatives are “holding the ward to ransom” for selfish reasons, and that one family asked for a relative to stay in a hospital bed while they went on holiday.
As a result, the hospital is asking patients to leave beds within seven days once fit for discharge. A spokesman for Royal Bournemouth Hospital said: “Once medically fit for discharge, an acute hospital environment is not in the patient’s best interest...We are asking that when patients and their representatives are given names of care homes from the hospital staff, for example, they view these homes and come to a decision within seven days.”
Although the hospital said most cases are resolved within the seven day period, it is prepared to take patients to court if they refused to leave: “We would be in a position to commence legal proceedings and formally evict a patient if that was necessary. It would be an absolute last resort but it’s something we are in a position to do with the solicitors here at the trust.” If taken to court, patients and their families could face legal costs of up to £50,000.
The Health Service Journal said that 1.4 million bed days were lost due to fit patients remaining in beds in the last year alone. Bed blocking has been blamed for numerous hospital problems - such as delays in A&E, and cancelled operations - as hospitals don’t have capacity for new patients. NHS statistics revealed that the hospital bed occupancy is now 87.6% – above the 85% safe level.
Hospitals are also struggling to discharge vulnerable patients with no care arrangements, according to Sky News 1,000 patients a day cannot be sent home due to a lack of home care.
Martyn Webster, from Healthwatch Dorset, told reporters he didn’t think evicting patients was the answer: "Threatening patients with legal action won't help solve the problems many people face when leaving hospital," he said. “Many [patients] want to go home but need significant support, which is not always available.”
Fiona Lowry, CEO at The Good Care Group, said: “Leaving hospital and having to find care is a stressful time for families, and moving to a place in later years that is unfamiliar and strange can cause significant trauma. Live-in care can provide an option for families who do not wish for their relatives to be placed in a care home.”